Home ยป Basic Marinara Sauce & Basic Meatball {Money Matters}

Basic Marinara Sauce & Basic Meatball {Money Matters}

Is there anything more classic that spaghetti and meatballs?

And now here’s the crazy thing…this was my first time ever making spaghetti and meatballs. What have I been waiting for?! We slurped up every last bite on our plates and I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed spaghetti noodles for a change. I’m always buying penne or linguine.

I had some time the other evening to calculate out the cost per serving of this week’s meals. This sounded like a topic of interest for several readers, so I do hope you find this helpful. It sure is time consuming, but I will give it a go for this week and maybe a week or two in the near future 😉

In all honesty, I do a poor job of shopping sales and planning our weekly meals around sales/coupons. I also do a poor job of inventory control and lose sight (literally) of what all is in our tiny over-stuffed pantry. I would estimate that we spend ~$350-400/month on groceries for 2 people. We eat out a maximum of 2x/week, though Mr. Prevention does frequent his company’s cafeteria and takes lunches only 1-2 times a week. However, unless I have a business meeting over lunch, I always take leftovers for lunch.

I buy high quality meats, dairy, eggs, and cheese. I try to buy local when possible, and aim to purchase hormone and antibiotic free meats and wild-caught seafood. As for cheese, I buy the good stuff and I do look for sales on Parmigiano Reggiano and fresh Parmesan to always have on hand.

I am by no means a “budget shopper” or cook, but I do hope these examples can serve as testament that with even minimal effort to save money, eating healthy and homemade doesn’t have to come with outrageous price tags. While costs of meals could certainly be lower, I figure it’s way cheaper (and better) than take-out, or even picking up sushi from your local grocer…even cheaper than many frozen pizzas! 😉

So without further adieu, a decadent spaghetti and meatball dinner…with the nutrition information and price breakdown included 😉


Basic Marinara Sauce very slightly adapted from Healthy Food for Living

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup red wine
28 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes plus their juices
8 oz tomato sauce
1 rounded Tbsp tomato paste
1 tomato, diced
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp oregano, chopped
3 Tbsp basil, chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes


Heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add in the onions and saute until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add in the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds, stirring constantly.

Add in the rest of the ingredients, and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat.

Reduce heat to low and simmer sauce for about 1 hour.

Sample the sauce throughout the simmering time and adjust seasonings to taste.

Leave sauce chunky, or blend until smooth using an immersion blender (or regular blender). Yield: ~5 cups (depending on how long you simmer to reduce)

Nutrition Information (per cup): 112 calories; 2.8 g. fat; 0 mg. cholesterol; 749 mg. sodium; 14 g. carbohydrate; 3.2 g. fiber; 3.6 g. protein

Result: This was such a fresh marinara! Even my Hunts canned marinara-loving husband loved this. I think the wine, fresh basil, and fresh tomato are the key ingredients. Of course I used a Chianti in this sauce, but any red wine will do. I did not puree the marinara and left it chunky…good choice. I think it made it taste all the more fresh!

Price: Mr. Prevention was very proud of his recent purchase of Hunts Four Cheese Marinara for $0.99. While the price of homemade was higher, the taste can’t be beat! The fire roasted tomatoes were $1.98, basil (fresh) was $1.50, wine was $0.73, onion was $0.57, olive oil was $0.20, tomato sauce was $0.39, oregano (fresh) was $0.85, and the fresh tomato was $0.40. The recipe made about 5 cups. The cost broke down to $1.41 per cup.




Basic Meatballs from An Edible Mosaic

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium-large onion, finely diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
3 cups whole wheat bread, crust removed, and cubed (~5 slices)
2/3 cup non-fat milk
1 lb ground beef, lean (92% lean or higher)
1 large egg white
1 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely shredded (about 1/2 cup shredded)
2-3 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper


Preheat oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with a silpat liner, or tin foil sprayed with non-stick spray.

In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium-low heat; add onion and garlic and saute until soft but not brown (about 10 minutes). Turn heat off and cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, combine cubed bread and milk; stir together with a fork so it forms a paste.

In a large bowl, combine cooked onion/garlic, bread/milk mixture, and all remaining ingredients. Use your hands to combine, then scoop into meatballs (~ 2 tablespoons each) and compact slightly with your hands. Place them on the prepared baking sheet and bake 30 minutes, flipping the meatballs once halfway through cooking. Yield: 21 meatballs (7 servings, 3 meatballs per serving).

Nutrition Information (per serving): 193 calories; 9 g. fat; 38 mg. cholesterol; 301 mg. sodium; 13.4 g. carbohydrate; 1.6 g. fiber; 17.6 g. protein

Result: Can I admit that I was pleasantly surprised how amazing these turned out? When I was reading through the ingredient list, I didn’t figure they would have that much flavor. And the milk + bread mush was new to me…but it just worked. And flavor? So there. 🙂 These were so tender…the meatballs nearly fell apart. Enjoy!

Price: I purchased 1 pound of 92% lean grass fed organic beef for $4.89. The parmesan ($11.99/lb) came in at $0.75/oz and olive oil at $0.20/oz. Onions calculated out to be $0.57 each when purchased in bulk. Five slices of whole wheat bread came out to $0.58 (assuming a $3.50 loaf). Assuming the recipe yields 7 servings of 3 meatballs each, the cost per serving is $1.08. Not bad!



My box of whole wheat spaghetti cost $1.69 and thus 7 servings of the homemade meatballs and spaghetti with marinara came in at $2.33/serving TOTAL. Each servings includes ~1 1/4 cup pasta, 3/4 cup marinara, and 3 meatballs. Not too shabby!

In other news, I lost 1 pound at weigh-in last night. I was honestly hoping for a bit more, but I can’t be disappointed with that. It was a great week exercise and food-wise, but I am still REALLY sore from yard work on Sunday and I think I may be retaining some water as a result. I was able to pull out a slow and steady 4 mile jog on the treadmill yesterday, but today will be a rest day or some light yoga. I need to not be sore any longer!

Question: What’s your favorite pasta shape?

And I can now say it’s Wednesday. Thank you, Twitter friends for correcting me when I thought yesterday was Wednesday. Broke my heart, people. 😉

Eat smart,

Share With Your Friends!


  1. April 13, 2011 / 5:58 am

    Spaghetti and meatballs looks incredibly delicious…I am hungry now looking at your dish..so YUM! Liked the fact that you included nutrition information and price breakdown too!

  2. April 13, 2011 / 6:36 am

    I’m a fan of penne! The little tubes are so fun! Haha! Congrats on the -1 pound!

    • Nicole
      April 13, 2011 / 4:29 pm

      Thank you! I love penne too!

  3. April 13, 2011 / 6:48 am

    I swoon for meatballs. So good.

  4. April 13, 2011 / 7:08 am

    I like the price breakdown! I’m always priding myself on how little I can spend to get through a full day of eats… ๐Ÿ™‚

    My favorite pasta is angel hair (whole wheat). It’s quick and easy to cook up!

  5. April 13, 2011 / 8:30 am

    I definitely don’t make spaghetti and meatballs enough! Especially given how much of a classic it is. Yours looks delicious!

    Congrats on the pound! I need to get back on track starting TODAY. I was good for about a month and the past few days have been a disaster. Time to leave the past behind and move forward!

    • Nicole
      April 13, 2011 / 4:29 pm

      I’m sure you’re stressed to the max with Boston coming up! Go easy on you ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. April 13, 2011 / 8:34 am

    I had meatball skinny pizza last night. Loved the meatballs!

  7. April 13, 2011 / 8:42 am

    When my sister was visiting home this weekend she did a bit of grocery shopping because she cooked dinner for us on Saturday. When she came back from the store she said: “I can’t BELIEVE how expensive groceries are here [in Canada]!”
    …she’s been licing in illinois for far too long.

    It’s true that groceries are much more expensive here…but so is everything else. When she tells me she can sometimes score a dozen eggs for a dollar I can’t help but think “you get what you pay for”

    • Nicole
      April 13, 2011 / 4:28 pm

      I tooootally agree…

  8. April 13, 2011 / 9:13 am

    I am sooooo excited that we’ll be Ohio neighbors!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ I would love to get to meet you in person!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ Columbus is actually quite close to Dayton – hooray!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I am also super excited about this gorgeous recipe (I’m always excited about your recipes, though, right? :-)) Zach loves meatballs, but I always feel like I’m haphazardly converting a recipe to a healthier version – I’m SO excited that here you have a beautiful lighter, healthful version ready for us! Thank you! For example, I always use whole wheat for the breadcrumbs, but then wonder how that’s going to alter the moisture content compared to the white breadcrumbs the recipe calls for – LOVE how you use whole wheat already in this recipe! You rock!! Ohhhh, and that closeup photo of the meatball…. Ohhhhh… *dreamy sigh* ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Nicole
      April 13, 2011 / 4:28 pm

      I’m excited, too!

  9. April 13, 2011 / 9:51 am

    Thanks for sharing some information about the budget issue! We try to keep our grocery budget under $300 a month, but it can be challenging!

  10. April 13, 2011 / 10:04 am

    What a great new addition to your blog! And your meatball looks so god!

    • Nicole
      April 13, 2011 / 4:28 pm

      Thank you!

  11. April 13, 2011 / 10:28 am

    Matt and I are trying to cut our grocery budget – and making more food. I’m trying to make an extra meal on the weekend that matt will take for lunch. It worked this week!

    Thanks for the price break down – it is very helpful!

  12. April 13, 2011 / 12:06 pm

    Cost break downs are a a lot of work! But spaghetti and meat balls look like a great deal! I love simple recipes like that. I’d eye balled faith’s meatball recipe and am glad to hear it was a hit.

    Nice job on the weight loss!

    • Nicole
      April 13, 2011 / 4:27 pm

      Thanks, Heather ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. April 13, 2011 / 12:23 pm

    Ive never made spaghetti and meat balls in my life. I should, its such a classic.

    My favorite noodle is linguine. I just like the shape of it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Nicole
      April 13, 2011 / 4:23 pm

      I <3 linguine, too ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. April 13, 2011 / 1:35 pm

    I used to LOVE spaghetti and meatballs growing up and then in college I stopped liking marinara type dishes in general. I love a good meatball sub but I could skip the noodle part. Other types of pasta sauces usually catch my eye (I just think I ate too much of it growing up). My husband STILL adores it though! He would love this!

    Congrats on the weight-loss and sorryabout the day mishap…I hate when that happens!

  15. April 13, 2011 / 2:09 pm

    This looks great (minus the meat, LOL). Homemade sauce is the best. After reading this post I am getting excited for all the good Italian food we will enjoy when we are there next month. Portugal sells some interesting pasta shapes. Can you believe the sell (in multiple brands) little letters for alphabet soup. I really like capellini. Wheel shaped pasta is fun too. Seriously, they have it all over here, and I can’t wait to see what we come across in Italy.

    BTW, how is the teaching going?

    • Nicole
      April 13, 2011 / 4:23 pm

      Teaching is good! I am getting tired of spending my evenings away from home, but otherwise, it’s the best ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. April 13, 2011 / 4:48 pm

    oh hey…great job on the pound loss! I think that is wonderful news! Be proud! ๐Ÿ™‚

    sometimes the simpler the meal, the better. We spend so much time trying to make an over the top meal sometimes, we forget just how good the simple stuff is! At least sometimes I do. lol

    Pasta shape depends on what I am making, I think…but I do seem to gravitate to the penne…and I don’t know why really. Maybe because when the kids all had braces…I only have one left in them now, spaghetti would get stuck in them..so for their sake, I started buying penne or the like….yes, that’s it I think! lol

  17. April 13, 2011 / 4:48 pm

    This meal looks excellent!
    I have to say, that I am not the best at grocery shopping budget. I do cook from home quite often but I am not always searching for the best price tags. I know people who go to more than one store finding the best deals. Call me lazy, but I’d rather just pay a bit more at the store that I’m at.
    I love farfalle pasta. I think the shape is adorable!

  18. April 13, 2011 / 5:09 pm

    Great looking recipe Nicole. And great tips too. Like you, I probably COULD spend less, but pride myself with getting the best deal for the good food we eat. It takes planning, knowing prices and shopping in a number different places but for us, its worth it. (we have an amazing produce store that is literally half the price of most others, its ridiculously crowded because alot of people shop there, but its well worth the crowds and going out of my way once a week or so – I also get our meat and one place, our cheese and deli at another, and basics and stapes at a Superstore). I know the running around wouldn’t work for everyone, but I make the time and plan my route carefully to be as efficient as possible. I also only take cash, and pretty much know how much things cost – which stops impulse purchases. Have a great day Nicole!!!

  19. April 13, 2011 / 8:57 pm

    Congrats on your weight loss! Hey, a pound down is awesome and one less pound to worry about. We always want it to be more!

    I really like how you broke down the cost per serving for this meal. It’s so much cheaper to eat at home not to mention healthier.

    Awesome photographs, what kind of camera do you use?

  20. April 13, 2011 / 9:48 pm

    I never think to make my own marina sauce and always buy it at the store. Your recipe is so simple and easy I gotta give it a try and I haven’t eaten meatballs in forever! They look yummy ๐Ÿ˜€

  21. January 2, 2014 / 4:42 pm

    This looks fantastic! You’ll have to let us know if we can share this with our Tomato Loving fans!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get my newest recipes
Follow Me